Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammad Sanusi II, on Wednesday questioned the lack of agency to focus on malnutrition in the country and poor implementation of policies to address it.
Citing statistics that indicate nearly half of all deaths among children aged under five are linked to malnutrition, he said the country didn’t seem ready yet to change the “undesirable figures.”
“Every day in villages, in towns in this country, boys and girls die because of malnutrition, and the federal ministry of health does not even have a director in charge—and state ministries do not,” said Sanusi, who also chairs the trustees board of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria.
In an address at the 49th Scientific Conference on Nutrition, holding over three days in Abuja, the Emir said, “The only evidence that public officers are concerned about these people who are dying is that we see institutional commitment, funding commitment, the time and focus and resources put into it….We have failed to see nutrition as a fundamental human right.”
The conference focuses on current trends and innovation to promote nutrition for sustainable development.
Sanusi said malnutrition retarded cognitive development of children and in turn hampered their potentials.
He noted that what may appear as “economic problem in the next 20 years, a continued concentration of poverty in certain quarters of the country,” may actually not be the result of lack of economic opportunity, but a lack of capacity to imbibe adequate nutrition.
The Global Panel of Agriculture and Food Systems in Nutrition in Africa estimates that meeting nutrition targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could add some $29 billion to the national income.
“Addressing malnutrition in Nigeria is therefore not just a social service but an economic strategy,” said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who chairs the National Council on Nutrition.
In his remarks delivered by the federal health ministry’s permanent secretary Abdullahi Mashi, Osinbajo said, “Enhancing nutrition is a potent means of improving on our development indices for Nigeria. Yet, the nutritional indices in the country remain poor with marginal improvement over the last decade. About a third of our children under the age of five are still stunted and this is unacceptable.”
The National Universities Commission is reviewing curriculum for medical education in collaboration with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, which regulates medical education and practice.
Speaking through a representative, the commission’s executive secretary, Abubakar Rasheed, called on nutritionists to join the review and make nutrition prominent in medical education.